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Palestinian raiders killed



JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli troops killed three Palestinians as they tried to infiltrate a Jewish settlement in Gaza, Israeli military and Palestinian sources said.

The Izzedine El Kassam brigades of the Hamas military wing claimed responsibility for the attempt to infiltrate the settlement of Dugit.

The showdown came just hours after Israel, under pressure from the United States, said it would withdraw from Palestinian areas in the West Bank if Palestinians observe a cease-fire.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told CNN: "An IDF force prevented an infiltration attempt into the settlement of Dugit on the northern Gaza strip. The IDF force identified three armed Palestinians near the settlement, charged toward them and killed them."

Israel radio reported that the electronic fence surrounding the settlement in northern Gaza was cut, sending a signal which alerted Israeli soldiers.

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The three dead have been named as Iyad Al-Batsh, 21, Othnan Razayna, 23, and Fuad El-Dahshan, 17.

Five Palestinians died Thursday in West Bank gunfire but a meeting of Israel's security Cabinet agreed to withdraw troops if a cease-fire was in place.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, also said there will be a trilateral meeting Friday between Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. officials to negotiate terms of the withdrawal.

"Israel intends to withdraw from the Palestinian areas when and where the Palestinian Authority decides to observe the cease-fire," said Gissin.

David Baker, also with the prime minister's office, said: "Israel continues to be committed to peace, but first and foremost we are committed to the defense of our citizens.

"The Palestinian side must fulfill obligations and commitments that were made. Israel does not intend to stay in the Palestinian-controlled areas."

Israeli forces swept into six Palestinian towns in the West Bank following last week's assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavan Ze-evi.

Israel said the move was necessary because it did not feel the Palestinian Authority was doing enough to round up Ze-evi's killer or killers. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the killing.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called on Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and said that targeted assassinations and retaliatory strikes would only make the situation even more volatile.

"All you have to do is look at the events of the past several days to see that things get worse," he said.

In addition, the United States called on Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to arrest those responsible for last week's assassination.

During the past week, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed.

On Thursday, four Palestinians were killed in Bethlehem and another in Tulkarem, Palestinian security sources said. Three other Palestinians -- including a 2-year-old child -- were wounded by sniper bullets in Azza refugee camp, the medical services said.

The Israeli Army said it was provoked by a group of Palestinians who had fired at them.

Israel Defense Forces late Thursday pulled out of the Palestinian town of Beit Rima near Ramallah, where its forces killed a number of Palestinians during raids Wednesday, including members of three militant groups. Israeli forces destroyed at least three houses there Thursday that Israel said belonged to people suspected of involvement in the killing of Ze'evi.



 
 
 
 


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